The other night I attended a Writer’s Meetup. 7-10 expat women who are all writers got together for wine, writing and getting to know each other. One of the topics/ assignments for the night was to write about your neighborhood. Berlin has very distinct districts, 23 Kiez neighborhoods. But I took the assignment and made it about living in Berlin in general. I hope you enjoy!

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When I walk anywhere in Berlin, I feel at home. I never feel like a stranger, or even an expat, I just feel comfortable, like home. The first time I walked down the street, more than a year ago now, I felt safe, and enclosed by some invisible “good vibe” bubble. It was a warm, early August evening, and the street lights glowed yellow as I walked down the Kruezburg street. It was late but the heat of the day was still radiating up from the sidewalk as I wandered to meet my friend for a glass of wine.

The lights were dim, but I didn’t fear, I was enjoying the intimacy of the night as it enfolded me in its arms. I wandered down a small darkened street, enjoying the  mystery and excitement. As I explored the neighborhood, the small bar on the corner, candles in the window, called to me, “Stop for a minute! Just be in the moment.” It asked me to wait, to slow down, to feel the city coursing through my veins.

A year later, that feeling lingers. I live in a new neighborhood, but still in East Berlin. I rarely walk at night, I have begun to live my life here as a “normal person,” not a tourist, not so much an explorer, but more as a “vecino”,  a neighbor,  a resident of this city.  But the city still calls to me, “Slow down!” It says. “Feel! Be present.”

The children, riding their tiny little bikes, are so young! They trail far behind their mom or dad. They are already independent and free to enjoy their own choice of movements in life. No one cares here. Independence is valued. There is a sense of being able to do what you want, no one is looking over your shoulder to make sure you are on the correct path. No one is watching to be sure you follow some rigid imagined plan set out for you (and everyone else.) Here, in Berlin, you have the freedom to just ride that tiny little bike and go, go, go!

Freedom of thought is not just a lofty goal, it’s how we do here. Open relationships, start-up culture, art, music, all night clubs, there is no rat race here. Everyone does their own thing, and it’s ok. There is a vibe here, that says go for it. Do YOUR thing, don’t worry about us, we’re just over here doing OUR thing. Anonymity is good, but if you want to stick out, that is great too.

Black is a thing here. As long as I have something black to wear, I feel anonymous, like I AM Berlin. Today I peeked at myself in the mirror and laughed. High water jeans, the ugliest black sneakers I’ve ever owned, and black and grey striped socks sticking out the top. A black and grey striped top (sometimes I still just HAVE to match!) and a grey sweatshirt with hood, topped by a denim jacket. If it’s true that your fashion tells so much about who you are, then I think I AM truly part of this city now.

How would you describe living in your city or town?